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Dungeon Dive 2: Abandoned Temple
Publisher: Dark Quest Games
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2005 00:00:00
Dungeon Dive 2: Abandoned Temple from Amalara is a short d20 adventure set in a small dungeon. The 18-page PDF has a color cover, a single-level color dungeon map that looks like it was designed with Dungeon Crafter 2 (a map making program that is available on the Internet) and an appendix with two monsters drawn from The Tome of Horrors by Necromancer Games (although the book is somewhat humorously called The TOMB of Horrors on the adventure's Open Game License page). There are a couple of pieces of clip art as the only illustrations.

A pretty good idea included in the adventure is that each encounter has challenges that are designated as being for low, medium and high power levels. And while it is not specifically stated in the adventure, these power levels seem to correspond to encounter levels that are roughly 2, 5 and 8 respectively. The three power levels are broken down for the type of monster included in an encounter, the type of trap and the DC of things like doors. The adventure details a total of twenty-one encounter areas. Another idea inluded in the module is that there is no 'big bad' included at the adventure's culmination. The DM is supposed to insert his own favorite to personalize the adventure.

The adventure itself is a crawl through what is supposed to be an abandoned temple. However, the map is a typical dungeon laid out in what is basically a loop of connected rooms. The encounters are also a little redundant. I got a chuckle out of the fact that there were V********** (at the low power level) hiding under not one, but TWO separate beds in the dungeon. I am sure this will become some kind of running joke in someone's campaign. The writing is a little rough in places, but workmanlike. The author of the adventure does make an attempt to address the temple theme and provide a reason for the kind of monsters that inhabit it, but in the end, it's just another dungeon crawl.

The Abandoned Temple is an ok, but not especially clever adventure. If you are a DM in a hurry, with little time to prepare an adventure, it might be worthwhile for the added utility of the varied power levels. If you are looking for an excuse to bash some monsters and grab their stuff, you also may like it. However, if you are looking for something more than just another dungeon crawl, you may be dissapointed.

LIKED: The varied power levels for each encounter are nice. The adventure should be easy to drop into almost any campaign.

DISLIKED: It's just another dungeon crawl with nothing that makes it stand out.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dive 2: Abandoned Temple
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Rogue's Rest Inn and Tavern
Publisher: The Explorers' Guild
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2005 00:00:00
The Rogue's Rest Inn and Tavern from The Explorer's Guild is a detailed Inn that could be easily dropped into most d20 fantasy campaigns. The 30-page PDF includes seven pages of maps, including small and large versions of the inn maps. Expanded stat blocks are included for more than thirty NPCs. You also get everything else you might expect, including food and drink prices and descriptions of each of the inn's rooms. I didn't do a detailed examination of the NPC stat blocks, but they look reasonable and each one includes at least a paragraph of entertaining background detail. The writing itself is polished and I did not notice many grammatical errors or editing gaffs. The background paragraphs give useful details like a description of the NPC and other information like motivations and relationships with other NPCs. The layout, while not the most professional that I have ever seen in a PDF, is workmanlike and readable. The Inn is ostensibly set in the Bluffside campaign setting, but I did not find many details that tied it too closely to that setting.

I was a little dissapointed by lack of adventure hooks. Three adventure hooks are included, but I wanted more. Each NPC also has plenty of background information that could be used by the GM, but I wish that the author had included at least one explicit hook in each NPC's writeup. No actual adventures are included. The other thing that I noted was that the black and white maps looked a little dark on my screen and this made the background detail a little bit difficult to pick out. I did not print the maps out, however, and they may look better when printed. It was a nice bonus that the Guild included the Campaign Cartographer map files as well, for owners of that program.

I was pleased overall with The Rogue's Rest Inn and Tavern. It offers a detailed adventuring site that is generic enough to fit in most campaigns and the price point is very reasonable. The writing is solid and the NPC background writeups are very good. I would have liked a few more adventure hooks or an actual short adventure, but I am a lazy DM and I'm always looking for ideas to borrow or steal. Check out the 8-page demo for a small map of the Inn's first floor and an example of the kind of stat blocks that are included.

LIKED: The writing is good and each NPCs background paragraph has plenty of entertaining details. The price point is good for what you get.

DISLIKED: The maps looked a little dark on my screen. I would have appreciated more adventure hooks and/or a short adventure.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rogue's Rest Inn and Tavern
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Cityscape Tiles: Prison
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2005 00:00:00
Cityscape Tiles: Prison consists of thirty printable tiles with a 1-inch scale square grid. Louis Porter has kindly included both full-color and black & white versions of each tile. The tiles can be assembled in a myriad of ways and plans are included for a single story jail and a two story prison. The tiles themselves are very well rendered. To me at least, they offer almost a perfect compromise between attractiveness and readability. Both color and b&w versions look sharp, but they don't include such an overload of texture and tiny details that they look muddy and busy on the tabletop. This is a problem in similar tiles that I have seen and I am glad that Louis Porter has avoided this problem.

The tiles should be perfect for a variety of modern, near future and superhero RPGs. I assume they could also be used for Heroclix, but they do not include any specific markings or suggestions for use with the system. The jail and prison plans included are probably not very 'realistic' (but I have never seen an actual prison and so I can't say for sure) but they look very gameable. Each tile is marked with its use (cell, shows, cafeteria, etc.) and I could easily see many of them also being useful for use as rooms in other structures like an office building or even a starship. The set even includes a 'super reinforced cells' tile that would be a perfect holding spot for a supervillain.

The only downsides to the set that I could find were that the don't also include a hex grid, which limits their usefulness for HERO players and the price point, which at $7.99 might be a bit high. But don't get me wrong. I definitely think they are worth it. The only thing that could have added any more value for me might have been some extra d20 statistics like break DCs and hit points for walls, cell doors, etc. If you are thinking about including a prison or jail in your modern or futuristic game, you should definitely check this one out. If you need more convincing, make sure to download the 5-page demo that includes the jail and prison plans, and three of tiles from the set.

LIKED: The tiles offer a great compromise between readibility and detail. Many of the individual tiles could also be used in other buildings besides a prison, which increases the product's value.

DISLIKED: There are no versions with a hex grid, which is probably dissapointing for HERO System fans.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cityscape Tiles: Prison
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Adventurer's Handbook
Publisher: Nitehawk Interactive
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/26/2005 00:00:00
I tried hard to find something I liked about the Adventurer's Handbook. With 148 pages of new fantasy d20 races, classes, skills, feats, spells and equipment there had to be something to like, right? Unfortunately, if there are some gems there, I couldn't find them beneath the ugly exterior. Most of the interior art is what I would generously call amateurish. There are a few decent pieces, but they are far overshadowed by the bad ones. The layout is also primitive. It almost looks like someone just pasted a few tables and pieces of art into a Word document. Some of the tables are so squashed, at least in my version of Acrobat, that I could hardly read them. At least there is an index.

The writing is quite unpolished. Draw your own conclusions, however, from this example from the Alignment section of the Kiriton race. "Kiritons are a goodly race that remains within their own communities. They tend to be Neutral Good; however Lawful Good is also a prominent alignment among them. Paladins to their goddess are not uncommon." The d20 content is a hodgepodge of material, without any unifying theme that I could find. There are nine new races, six new base classes, new skills, new feats, new magic, new equipment, four new prestige classes and two new NPC classes. There is also a section on expanding current skills. Whether or not you will actually like any of the book's d20 content is certainly subjective, but as a D&D player that has enjoyed the new edition since it was first released in 2000, I didn't find anything that really stood out to me. Your mileage of course may vary.

I don't want to be completely negative, however. My opinion is just that and there are probably at least some useful ideas and nuggets that a clever purchaser can dig out and use. I hope Nighthawk Interactive learned a lot from putting the Adventurer's Handbook together and hopefully they will go on to put out more polished and professional products in the future.

LIKED: There probably some nuggets buried here somewhere for someone willing to dig.

DISLIKED: The art and layout are very poor. The writing is unpolished and the content unremarkable.

QUALITY: Disappointing

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer's Handbook
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0one's Customizable Battlegrounds: Minotaur's Hold
Publisher: 0one Games
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/25/2005 00:00:00
This is an interesting new product from 0one Games that consists of one giant battle map divided into eight standard 8 1/2 X 11 sheets. The map is designed for skirmish miniature games, specifically the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures game, but it could certainly be used for RPG scenarios as well. I don't play the D&D minis game myself, but it looks like the map contains the same features as the official game map tiles and should be completely compatibile (although not allowed for 'official' play I would assume). The product also includes three suggested minis scenarios for use with the map.

The really cool feature of Minotaur's Hold is something 0one calls Rule the DUNGEON! This feature allows you to 'turn off' any of the map's layers that you don't want. If you don't want the ground texture (to save printer ink for instance), you can conveniently turn it off in Acrobat by clicking the Rule the DUNGEON! icon and deslecting that layer. You can also turn off things like rubble and furniture or even the walls if you want to create one big, open battefield. This is the kind of feature that makes you say "why isn't everyone doing this?" and it adds a lot of value to an already reasonably priced product.

I can't think of anything about the Minotaur's Hold that I don't like. The art is attractive and the product does what it is designed to do very well. The only thing that would have made it absolutely perfect would have been if 0one had included black and white versions of the maps or maybe a short d20 scenario for use with the map. That would also be the only catch for a prospective buyer. If you are buying it for your d20 campaign, you will need to make up your own scenarios. No d20 information is included.

LIKED: The Rule the DUNGEON! feature gives it a lot of extra value. The art is also excellent.

DISLIKED: Nothing. Only an included short d20 scenario or b&w versions of the maps could have made it any better.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Customizable Battlegrounds: Minotaur's Hold
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